The Stone Foxes steer their unusual brand of the blues to Woody’s.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
One might expect a member of the blues rock revivalist duo The Black Keys to throw down support for the young S.F. quartet The Stone Foxes, whose debut includes takes on blues classics “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “Spoonful.” But it comes as a surprise that David J of goth rock originators Bauhaus – and the ’80s and ’90s alt rockers Love and Rockets – praises the band on the Foxes’ own MySpace page. It also reveals how their unique sound can appeal to people well beyond blues enthusiasts.
J clearly discovered The Stone Foxes after they chose to cover Love and Rocket’s “Fever” on the recently released Love and Rockets tribute album New Tales to Tell, which also features contributions by Black Francis, The Flaming Lips, The Dandy Warhols and Better Than Ezra.
The Stones Foxes take on “Fever,” a track from Love and Rocket’s 1996’s Sweet F.A., strips the original song of its Euro club glitz and drags it to the swamp, replacing an organ solo with blasts of harmonica. The Stone Foxes’ drummer, harmonica player and vocalist Shannon Hoehler admits his group had never heard of Love and Rockets when their manager asked them if they wanted to contribute to the album, but thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity.
“It’s really cool to take these guys who do this electronic thing and put a blues spin on it,” he says.
For J, the song unearthed a deeper enthusiasm. “It’s a great swampy blues interpretation of the original L&R stomper from this excellent San Francisco-based band,” he enthuses. “They have the spirit of ’68 mixed with the delta swamp forests and the fog of the Golden Gate Bridge about them. And when I saw them play live recently, when I DJ’ed on the same bill, they brought to mind an earlier generation of young white kids immersed in the sounds of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, bringing their own urban authenticity to the tradition and rockin’ out like bastards!”
The Stone Foxes’ origins lie in the childhoods of Shannon Hoehler and his brother Spence, who plays lead guitar, pedal steel and sings in the band. The two grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills an hour east of Fresno. “We’d mine iron for fun,” Shannon says.
In addition to searching the countryside for metals, Spence also dug up his mother’s copy of Led Zeppelin’s IV album. From there, the brothers traced the music back through Hendrix and Cream to its roots: the blues. They spent their free time learning how to play instruments on their 40-acre family spread.
“We could play all day and all night there and all we’d have to worry about is Mom,” Shannon says.
After the Hoehler brothers moved to San Francisco, they joined forces with Aaron Mort and Avi Vinocur and formed The Stone Foxes two and a half years ago. In a short period, The Stone Foxes have played some of San Francisco’s best venues, including Slim’s, Great American Music Hall and Café Du Nord. They’ve also opened for The Mother Hips and Patterson Hood at The Independent.
The group released its self-titled debut in 2008. It begins with an uncouth guitar riff that leads into opener “Beneath Mt. Sinai,” which melds a classic blues-rock sound with the rhythmic stomp and call-and-response of punk groups like The Clash. Hoehler says the lyrics were inspired by his reading of the Old Testament.
Other tracks, like “Mercury” and “Black Rolling Thunder,” recall rootsy rockers The Black Crowes, while “Sweep a Road” finds the guys returning to blues music’s plentiful well.
THE STONE FOXES play 9:30pm Saturday, Sept. 5, at Woody’s Bayview Grill, 125 Ocean View Blvd. #126, Monterey. No cover. 649-6800.